Vincent Kompany’s Burnley didn’t do everything their way in their win over Huddersfield, but Ian Maatsen’s winner summed up the newfound dynamism to offer a glimpse of what’s to come as the defender started and finished a eye-catching move to start the club’s new era with three points.
The Clarets completed more than 300 passes in the first half, only achieving such a feat in 90 minutes twice in the entirety of last season to show the early impact of their new manager. No wonder Kompany said he was inspired by Pep Guardiola’s pre-match. The Manchester City boss will also have relished the winner, although it came from a Chelsea player who marauded into the area from left-back before choosing the bottom corner.
Burnley have taken the most revolutionary approach of their new era with six debutants in the starting line-up and potentially another half-dozen on the bench. No wonder for a club that has lost 10 first-team players this summer and has already signed nine. Huddersfield, on the other hand, started with no new signings on the pitch as Danny Schofield hoped Championship experience would be the wisest choice for his own managerial debut.
The heat of battle seemed to get to Kompany early on; the Belgian felt the need to take off his suit jacket with less than four minutes on the clock. He watched goalkeeper Aro Muric cause Kompany much consternation because his passes repeatedly found blue and white stripes to put constant pressure on, while Burnley learned their new roles and system on the job, but they are quickly installed.
Ashley Barnes, the only in-form striker available to Burnley, has shown his experience in getting on the wrong side of the Huddersfield defense without testing Lee Nicholls. Burnley fans found their early-season joy in an extended stretch of passing, something unheard of in the Sean Dyche days, with every side pass finding its target with a near-sarcastic “Olé” at the packed end as the Clarets began to dominate. .
The old and new combined thanks to some smarter work by Barnes to fake a pass to create space in the box, he would eventually get back on his feet from Josh Brownhill, allowing him to control and inadvertently place the balloon on the beginner’s path. Maatsen, who had started the move halfway through, to leap and loop a first time into the bottom corner.
Kompany’s vision of an attacking side was starting to be seen in previews. Shortly after the opener, a second should have happened when a one-two between Connor Roberts and Josh Cullen saw the full-back latch on to a dink over the top, but his close-range shot got was stopped by Nicholls. Cullen was the man who inspired everything positive in Burnley’s midfield with his neat touches, passing and ability to read the game, showing why Kompany was so keen to bring him with him from Anderlecht.
Advice was constantly sought on the sidelines by Kompany from his predecessor Mike Jackson who led the time in the final weeks of their Premier League spell. He might have wished to bring in his assistant Craig Bellamy for a move up front, as Barnes’ limited pace and movement as a lone striker in a side lacking width was on display.
Sensing a shift in momentum, Schofield made a double substitution by bringing on Jack Rudoni and Tino Anjorin just before the hour mark. The latter, on loan from Chelsea, had an instant impact when he suffered a foul on the edge of the box by Cullen who received a caution for his troubles, while provoking the ire of the crowd.
Huddersfield were finding their feet after a frustrating start summed up by Sorba Thomas kicking Charlie Taylor following a foul from the Burnley defender. The referee missed the petulant act fortunately for Thomas, but it at least showed some much-needed passion from the home side. Anjorin showed further immaturity by sending the ball against Taylor soon after when the centre-back was on the ground after committing his own foul. It looked like the final stages would be decided by which side could keep their cool in front of a fiery crowd.
Whether Burnley can put out such a sustained effort over a 46-game season remains to be seen. The players weakened in the closing stages on a wet night against relentless opposition but managed to hold on. Others will see Burnley as a scalp this season after coming into the opener as an unknown quantity. The foundations have been installed for Burnley to build on, they only need to reach Kompany standards for over an hour.